Saturday, June 7, 2008


While browsing through some innovation weblogs on the net, I was somehow led to take a look at a book, entitled 'Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days', by Jessica Livingston.

In a nut shell, & from the synopsis on, the book is a collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies about what happened in the very earliest days.

These people are celebrities now, & include: Steve Wozniak (Apple), Caterina Fake (Flickr), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Max Levchin (PayPal), Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail), David Heinemeier Hansson (37 Signals), Dan Bricklin (Visicalc), Blake Ross (Firefox), Tim Brady (Yahoo), Steve Perlman (WebTV), & James Hong (Hot or Not).

Then, a positive review of the book by Kes Sampanthar, the founder of Metamemes, a small company with a simple mission: "Bringing People & Ideas Together", & inventor of the part-game/part-methodology/full-inspiration tool-kit, 'ThinkCube: A Professional Innovation Tool' caught my attention.

According to him, here are some of the universal truths that he had culled from the book:

- Iterate through ideas, the first idea isn't always the best;

- Business plans are important - but be prepared to change it many times ;

- You need to be naïve - "unencumbered by reality";

- Persistence makes all the difference;

- Passion - you need to be really excited about what you are doing & think it's really important;

- Understand & listen to your end users;

Looks like, I don't need to read the book.


As part of his masters degree research project, Wayne Morris, the Director of New-Zealand-based Future Edge Ltd, specialising in leadership development, performance coaching & organisational creativity, surveyed a range of organisations with the intention of identifying the factors that enable organisational creativity.

These are his top ten, in a nut shell:

10) Appropriate reward;
9) Clear organisational goals;
8) Positive staff motivation;
7) Committed leadership;
6) Personal authority to initiate change / individual empowerment;
5) Supportive organisational structure;
4) Open communication and information sharing;
3) Space / resources to pursue ideas;
2) Staff competence;
1) Time;

To read the entire aricle, please proceed to this link.


1) Defining & clarifying the Problem

2) Identify central issues or problems.

3) Compare similarities & differences.

4) Determine which information is relevant.

5) Formulate appropriate questions.

6) Judging Information Related to the Problem

7) Distinguish among fact, opinion, & reasoned judgment.

8) Check consistency.

9) Identify unstated assumptions.

10) Recognize stereotypes & clichés.

11) Recognize bias, emotional factors, propaganda, & semantic slanting.

[Source: Woolfolk A. E. (1990): Educational psychology]


Here's an interesting article on creativity from Mary Campbell.

Appended below is a quick outline of what she wrote:

Habit #1: Take delight in deep thinking
Habit #2: Demand imperfection
Habit #3: Get to know yourself
Habit #4: Use your strengths
Habit #5: Find a Creative Role Model
Habit #6: Challenge the myth of independence
Habit #7: Maintain a strong Play-Ethic

For 18 years, Mary Campbell, trained as a registered nurse, has worked with communities, families, schools & organisations affected by poverty, war, child abuse, torture, geographic isolation, natural disaster & displacement to transform their futures.

Her first hand experiences have repeatedly shown her that any type of change we dream of is possible - even in impossible circumstances - when we draw from our creative power.

With postgraduate qualifications in Disaster Managment, Health Education, & as a fully qualified Project Manager & Director, she has established the Creative Life website, dedicated to all people working towards a more hopeful, compassionate & authentic world based on the principles of creativity.

Here's the link to her original article.


According to Dan Gould, writing in his PSFK Ideas, Trends & Inspirations weblog, Jose Avila had spent all his money moving in to a new apartment. He was broke, & had zero furniture. Instead of saving up money, or using junked finds from the street, he decided to make his own - out of FedEx boxes.

Inspired by a friend who had created a desk out of the free shipping supplies, Avila got to work making a house of his own.

He’s since created a fully functioning desk (with chair), bed, couch, & dining room set.


Here's a link to a wonderful website, which gives you full access to many powerful tools for creating strategic foresight. It's owned by the Department of Foresight of The UK Government Office for Science.

While the tools offer some ideas & suggestions for ways to approach futures projects, they are not intended to be prescriptive or definitive. The tools are not intended to be informative & easy to use.

The tools have been designed to keep the beginner in mind throughout, by providing plenty of opportunities for individuals to delve deeper if they wish to do so.


Jim Carroll, a leading international futurist, trends & innovation expert, shares the following insights based on his consulting work with highly innovative companies on the fast lane:

- Focus on operational excellence;

- Create high expectations for growth, as well as an IT infrastructure that enables such growth;

- Develop instant, need-driven relationships with their partners;

- Focus on rapid agility for new market demands;

- Adhere religiously to a "fast time to market" philosophy;

- Focus on quick marshalling of resources to accomplish velocity;

- Provide for instant scalability, given market volatility & rapid change;


Just for the fun of it, I have extracted the following quotes from an old article by Serena Lim of Bizibody Technology Pte Ltd in the Law Gazette, in which she talked about the successful emergence of small law practices:

Small = Fast & adaptable:

"We have moved away from the old paradigm where the Big ate the Small to one where the Fast eat the Slow . . . "

Jason Jennings, author of 'Think Big, Act Small: How Best Performing Companies Keep the Startup Spirit Alive';

"Small means the founder makes a far greater percentage of the client interactions. [The founder] is close to the decisions that matter and can make them quickly . . ."

Seth Godin, author of 'Survival is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change';

"It’s no longer about ownership, but access . . ."

Douglas Brown & Scott Wilson, author of 'The Black Book of Outsourcing';

Technological advances level the playing field:

"Now the means of production is in your head … dispersed physically but connected by technology, workers are able, on a scale never before imagined, to make their own decisions, using information garnered from many other people and places . . ."

Thomas L Friedman, author of 'The World is Flat, A Short History of the 21st Century';

Gazing into the Crystal Ball:

"For the first time in history, information technologies allow us to gain the economic benefits of large organizations without giving up the benefits of small ones, like freedom, creativity, motivation and flexibility."

Thomas Malone, author of 'The Future of Work';

I reckon what Serene Lim had written, especially the convergence of trends & strategic agility, certainly applies to SOHO outfits.

Here's the link to the original article by her.

In summing up this post, I will use the following statement from her article as food for your thoughts:

"The best strategy for survival in an ever changing environment is the ability to stay responsive & agile."


"Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game."
(Donald Trump)

[Readers can have a sampling of his latest ideas & opinions on The Trump Blog.]


While surfing the net, I somehow found myself inside the website of 'Science for Success Systems: Academy for Advanced Achievement'.

I read that they had condensed more than 80,000 of books & research materials about neuroscience in the last nine years or so to come up with a handful of science-based lessons to help people become smarter.

From what I can gather quickly, their principal premise for the science of success, according to presumably their founder, Doug Bench, is something which most people are already fully aware of, i.e.

change your thoughts = control your life;

Naturally, readers have to fork out some ready cash to lay their hands on those science-based lessons.

What I had managed to do quickly, while browsing their website & amidst all the exhortative sales pitches, was to go through their 'Possibilities' newsletter archives.

I had found the following "findings" in their newsletters, though not novel or groundbreaking, but, I reckon they are still worth reading as well as exploring:

Here they are:

1) whenever you are greeted with "How are you?", pep yourself up by responding with a resounding "Great!", "Terrific!" or "Fantastic!";

2) commit to taking full & total responsibility for your circumstances, your results & how you feel;

3) always learn new things everyday;

4) always turn a negative thought or word into a positive;

5) always do something "new, strange, crazy, silly, out of the box, embarrassing or that is otherwise not you";

6) always set a goal by putting it down in writing;

7) eagerly & willingly fail at something important everyday & learn from it;

8) tell at least two people that you love them;

9) do an exercise regimen for your brain as well as for your body everyday;

10) stop & look to see what everyone else is doing, & then choose to probably do the opposite;

Doug Bench has insisted that all these "findings" have their scientific basis from neuroscience research. I don't think I can default him on that count, based on what I myself had read over the years.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Dr Paul Tinari, Director of Pacific Institute for Advanced Study, wrote in Version 3.0 of his 300+ page book, 'Boxing Outside the Think', which I have recently downloaded from the publisher's website for US$6.25, about advanced concepts in creativity & innovation for professionals.

Frankly, the book is quite a scholarly work, & I haven't yet finished my reading.

Nonetheless, I just like to highlight one important point from the book, about making strategic connections.

In the 'Introduction' page, he wrote:

"Similarly, the long-accepted solution to a mundane problem in one area of technology can stimulate the creation of an innovative breakthrough in quite another area when a mind with the insight to "see" deeper than others have comes onto the scene . . ."

The author then went on to give numerous examples of what he has described as 'the stimulation effect'.

Just one quick example from the book:

"Alastair Pilkington invented the method of making perfect plate glass by floating it on a continuous ribbon of molten tin. He got the idea while watching soapsuds in the dishwater while cleaning up after dinner."

I often like to use the following term to describe the phenomenon: 'idea triggers' or more appropriately, 'juxtaposition' of ideas.

In fact, I have written about it in an earlier post.

In his innovative book, entitled 'Medici Effect: What Elephants & Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation', author Frans Johansson uses the term 'intersection of ideas' to describe the phenomenon.

I believe Edward de bono has once used the term 'twinning of thoughts' to describe it from his viewpoint.

Please read this earlier post in which I have described the phenomenon at work in Singapore.

Come to think of it - poet Robert Frost was right to say:

"All thought is a feat of association; having what's in front of you bring up something in your mind that you almost didn't know you knew."


I am always fascinated by the subject of understanding paradigm pliancy, & its significance to strategy formulation, ever since I had read Joel Arthur Barker's 'Discovering the Future: The Business of Paradigms' during the eighties.

In fact, I have also written quite a number of posts on this subject.

I have first spotted the following remarks at Filip de Cavel's weblog, 'From Dialogue to Discipleship', which then led me to browsing the original source on, a book about reinvented churches, entitled 'The Church on the Other Side', written by Brian McLaren, a pastor:

"I like the way Leadership Network's NetFax put it:

Paradigm pliancy is the best strategy in times of rapid & turbulent change. Flexibility & a willingness to abandon outmoded methods & approaches is crucial.

When the horse is dead, dismount.

Maximising discontinuity means not trying to fix up the horse to get a few more miles out of it, but burying it, & looking for a new one.

The journey is the most important thing, not the horse that you take to get there."

I certainly like the analogy.


If you search the net, you can read a lot about urban legends involving Coca Cola or Coke.

For example, readers can go to this link for a quick look.

A quick one: Some of the crazy uses for Coke include washing stains off clothes & melting nails.

I once read that Coke could be used to melt fish-bones. I didn't quite believe it then, until I was caught with a fish-bone stuck in my throat, while consuming fish-head curry in a restaurant.

Out of sheer panic, & drawing on what I had read earlier, I got the waiter to get me two glasses of Coke on the double, which I drank immediately but slowly.

After the second glass, I felt very comfortable, arising from my feeling that the fish-bone had been eventually dislodged.

I had a similar bad experience on another occasion, & was really glad that Coke had given me the quick relief for the second time.

On hindsight, I reckon it has something to do with one of the active ingredients in Coke, phosphoric acid.


Whenever I go to the gym in the morning, I always carry my waist pouch with me.

It contains ten things as shown in the photo:

1) Nokia N95 handphone, fitted with a Nike neck-strap;

2) Membership cards, with card holder, from Gym ClubFitt at the Jurong East Sports Centre;

3) Wire-bound note-book, with triple indexed sections, for note-making & mind-mapping during my breaks;

4) Multi-colour ball-point pen, for note-making & mind-mapping;

5) Lacoste Sun-glass;

6) A set of house keys (with holder);

7) Padatino leather wallet;

8) A box of Ricola herbal voice gums (my favourite);

9) A small packet of soft paper tissue, from Guardian Pharmacy;

10) Canon IXUS 75 digital camera (not shown, as I have used it to shoot the photo for this post)


1) what can I do better for my customer?

2) how can I make my customer's life easier?

3) what new product or service would my customer like to see me offering?

inspired by Charles Schwab, who pioneered seamless stock trading on the Internet in 1996, & went on from a tiny firm to the world's largest financial services company


"The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot wrong questions."

Anthony Jay, broadcaster & co-author of the successful British comedies, 'Yes, Minister' & 'Yes, Prime Minister';

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Dan Sullivan, success coach for entrepreneurs & founder/president of The Strategic Coach, Inc., offers ten strategies for transforming negativity & unpredictability into opportunities for growth, progress, & achievement.

According to him, we should always focus on:

1) helping others to succeed;

2) our relationships - with family, friends, team members, suppliers, clients, customers, & prospects

3) creating value through viable solutions to problems & challenges;

4) opportunities - using new ideas, new energies, new tools, & new resources;

5) our progress as a human being;

6) today - our contributions, achievements, & results.;

7) what we can be - taking our cues from the inside — from our dreams, ideals, values, & operating principles.;

8) our creative responses to events & happenings;

9) what's available to us - including information, knowledge, tools, systems, personnel, & capabilities.

10) our gratitude;

Here's the link to the original article on his corporate website, which is a goldmine of useful information nuggets.

I certainly like his roundup of the top entrepreneurial challenges:

- complexity, arising from being overwhelmed by successes & from the point of diminishing returns on the treadmill of constant demands;

- work/life imbalance, trapped by responsibilities to the company, team, family, clients & customers & pressures of maintaining lifestyles & status;

- 'commodisation trap', when survival & successes increasingly depend on selling more products & services at lower prices;

- figuring out the issues of teamwork, communication & delegation;

[Readers can also listen to Dan Sullivan’s audio presentation of the 10 strategies for “Scary Times” by downloading this audio file in .mp3 format.]


"The size of the future you actually experience will largely be determined by one factor: the people you choose to connect with. When you invite people who are truly committed to growth into every aspect of your life, your own potential for growth becomes truly unlimited."

(Dan Sullivan, success coach to entrepreneurs; founder & president of 'The Strategic Coach, Inc.'; also author of several books, including 'The Great Crossover', 'The 21st Century Agent', 'The Producer Group Future', 'How The Best Get Better', 'The Advisor Century', 'Creative Destruction' & 'The Laws of Lifetime Growth', with Catherine Nomura;)


I have read in the Sunday Times not too long ago that the next James Bond 007 movie, entitled 'Quantum of Solace' is due for release later this year.

It is expected to be a direct sequel to the last Bond movie, entitled 'Casino Royale'.

The original author, Ian Fleming, had defined a 'quantum of solace' as roughly, a measure of comfort - as 'that spark of niceness in a relationship that if you don't have, you might as well give up'.

Apparently, our hero is looking for his 'quantum of solace' - he wants his emotional closure, following his devastation by the betrayal of his true love, Vesper Lynd, in the last movie.

From what I have read, the producers said the new movie, is likely to mix Bond's 'inner turmoil' with high-octane action sequences - & of course, jam-packed with new gadgets - as he tries to stop a shadowy cabal trying to bring down the world economy.

The new 22nd Bond movie is expected to continue in the gritty vein of 'Casino Royale', in which a rough-edged agent #007, newly granted his 'license to kill', is going to kick some butts.

James Bond 007 has been my favourite secret agent ever since I had watched the first two, 'Dr No' & 'From Russia with Love', starring my personal favourite, Sean Connery, during the early sixties.

In fact, I have also rewatched all the James Bond 007 movies, from the 1st to the 21st, several times on video CDs as well as DVDs, not counting the countless times I have rewatched them on cable television.

In other words, I have watched Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, & now Daniel Craig, playing respectively the suave super agent, & not forgetting David Niven who played Sir James Bond in the other 'Casino Royale' in the late sixties, as well as Sean Connery again who returned in 'Never Say, Never Again' during the mid-eighties. [I understand that the latter two movies were produced independently & outside of Albert Broccolli's Eon Productions.]

To me, Sean Connery, is the best of them all. He is the only one with that killer instinct on his face.

I just love to watch movies about secret agents, & I reckon James Bond 007, at least from the standpoint of gadgets, beautiful damsels & action sequences, is still the best of them all.

For the record, I have also enjoyed watching Tom Adams as Charles Vine, the 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World (2nd to James Bond, of course). Three movies were made, but I had seen only two of them, 'Licensed to Kill' & 'Where Bullets Fly'.

Others include Michael Caine as Harry Palmer in five movies, namely, 'The Ipcress File', 'Funeral in Berlin', 'Billion Dollar Brain', 'Bullet to Beijing', & 'Midnight in St Petersburg', based on the spy character from Len Deighton's novels.

Then there was also the black & white 'Dangerman' television series about John Drake, an intelligence operative for NATO, played by Patrick McGoohan.

From the American side, there were this secret agent with the code-name 'OSS 117' in several movies (played by many different actors, including Kerwin Mathews, Frederick Stafford), plus Derek Flint (played by James Coburn) & Matt Helm (played by Dean Martin), both of whom played the more fun-loving, havoc-creating rather than the serious & cool secret agents.

['OSS' apparently stood for 'Office of Strategic Services', a precursor of the CIA; If you had watched 'Our Man Flint' & 'In Like Flint', you would certainly recall & be amazed by superspy Derek Flint & his super-duper gadget-filled cigarette lighter fitted with 82 death-defying devices, + 1 for its original purpose!]

I reckon readers may be intrigued by my personal fascination for secret agents.

For me, there are a lot of good stuff we can learn from James Bond 007, even though he exists only in the make-believe world:

These are some of the good stuff, notwithstanding a flair for unarmed combat techniques & a gift of the gap:

- acute power of observation - the first rule of spying;

- anticipatory prowess, especially in understanding cause & effects, so that he can make accurate predictions about what is likely to happen & act accordingly & quickly;

- lateral thinking, in dealing with all kinds of challenges & threats from all kinds of villains, including rogues from his own spy outfit;

- quick, intuitive thinking, especially when dealing with beautiful damsels in apparent distress, but actually possessing hidden agendas (naturally, he got carried away once in a while);

- charismatic high self-concept, always assured of himself with total personal control, even when dangers are lurking around;

- adept in creating diversionary as well as camouflaged measures to mislead or distract his adversaries;

- very passionate in what he does, & enjoy life to the fullest, as the saying goes, to feast like there is no tomorrow;

- fearless in living life at the edge, becoming the hunter as well as the hunted, as the situation warrants it;

- cool & collected, under extreme pressures or conditions;

- taking decisive actions, "shoot first, ask questions later" i.e. follow his gut instincts, to avoid been eliminated by the deadly competition, sometimes to the annoyance of his boss, 'M';

- apparently widely read, with the ability to smooth talk his way out of sticky situations, especially when his brain is been pricked by his adversaries or competition or sometimes, his own boss, 'M';

- last but not least, comfortable with & embracing all kinds of technology, including high-tech weaponry & practically all forms of transport vehicles (with many thanks to 'Q' & 'R') readily available at his personal disposal;

[I have just learned that an award-winning novelist, Sebastian Faulks, at the request of the late Ian Fleming's family, has just released the latest James Bond adventure in print, entitled 'Devil May Care'. All in all, Ian Fleming wrote 14 James Bond novels from 1952 to 1964, with the last one, entitled 'Octopussy', which was also made into a movie.]


Knowing that technology is dead & that I am the last person on Earth, where would I go?

inspired by the latest fully immersive, interactive sci-fi series on AXN Channel, entitled 'Afterworld', about life on Earth after an inexplicable global event that renders technology useless & 99.9% of the population missing; the series traces the adventures of Russell Shoemaker, an advertising executive who woke up one day & found himself alone in New York; reminds of the sci-fi thriller, 'The Omega Man', starring Charlton Heston, during the seventies;

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I just read from the 'Mind Your Body' supplement of today's Straits Times that an Australian study of people in their 70s found that those with the largest network of friends had the longest lease on life.

Having a large social network can add 7 years to your life, according to the study.

Wow! That's great!

So, stay in touch with your old pals.

It's also never too late to make new friends.

For me, another important aspect of social networking is building &/or rebuilding of relationships with family members, as well as relatives, close or distant. One Internet tool I have found useful in this respect is flickr.


"I don't look like Bratt Pitt but I pushed through & I got to have my dreams come true through perseverance & believing in myself."

Jack Black, comedian & actor, who plays Po, the pauchy panda & chosen dragon warrior in Dreamworks Animation's latest offering, Kung Fu Panda


Today is my first anniversary of blogging.

I have originally set up my personal weblog on June 4th 2007 as a disciplined routine to keep myself busy - naturally, from the intellectual standpoint - everyday.

Just like my regular physical workout in the gym during the morning hours from Mondays to Fridays, I now have something useful to do daily as a habitual routine.

To date, I have written slightly more than 1,750 posts.

Many of my posts are regular features, like 'Today's VIP', 'Today's Q2P', 'Book Review', 'Movie Review' or 'Lessons from the Movies', 'Notes from My Scratchpad', 'Pragmatic Insights from the Experts' & 'From my Toolbox'. I have recently added 'Nostalgia' & 'Rapid Recap'.

Other posts are mostly my personal spontaneous or 'spur-of-the-moment' reactions to stuff I read in the local newspapers or articles I browse on the net or from social conversations with my gym buddy or simply mundane observations of the day.

Besides this weblog, I have 3 others, namely:

- The Study Smart Smorgasbord (dedicated to effective study skills for students);

- The Brain Resource (in memory of Catherine);

- Kieu Dung Designs (to showcase hand-crafted clay flowers from my current wife);

However, in the 3 other weblogs, I have so far written only a handful of posts. This is something I need to reflect further.

In retrospect, my weblogs are in many ways intellectual extensions of what I have been doing since the early nineties, when I had left the corporate world to chart out my own life design - doing what I love & loving what I do.

In fact, I had published & edited a 10-issue-a-year subscription newsletter for two years, from early 1992 to 1994. It was called the Left-Brain/Right-Brain Newsletter.

This weblog of mine is reminiscent of that newsletter. It allows me to share what I had learned & experienced as well as what I am learning & experiencing everyday.

I have enjoyed writing my weblog very much. Besides the disciplined practice as originally intended, I have made many new friends, especially like-minded professionals, in hyperspace.

For me, one of the most productive learning experiences I got out of blogging is reading about other people's blogs (also, watching other people's video casts, plus listening to other people's pod casts), which unwittingly open up a lot of wonderful opportunities about the world I never thought of.

I am referring to the abundant learning opportunities of myriad modes available in the marketplace.

This development accentuates the power of the 'Invisible University', which Ronald Gross, learning guru & author of 'Peak Learning', has been talking about for the last three decades or more.

For me, the learning opportunities come often in the form of inspiring & novel ideas, personal observations of other pertinent people, current events or developments from different perspectives, pulses on the ground in other parts of the world, questions I wouldn't think of myself, as well as entertainment for the mind.

Additionally, another should I say "side benefit" of blogging is the sudden realisation of the urgent need to organise, structure & consolidate what I have learned at least in the last four decades. I have wanted to do it many years ago, but haven't got it started.

'Notes from My Scratchpad', 'From my Toolbox' & 'Pragmatic Insights from the Experts' are actually part of my grand plan, so to speak.

My good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, has often suggested to me to write a book. Somehow, I think blogging is a much better option.

This is certainly a mammoth task, which I have to think more about, in order than I can improve my blogging in the long run.


1) Who am I when I am awake?

2) Who am I when I go to sleep?

3) Who do people see when they see me coming?

4) Who am I when no one else is around?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I have found this interesting article by Ron Karr, a sales strategy expert. It's entitled '7 Ways to be an Invaluable Resource".

It is extracted from his book, 'The Titan Principle: The Number One Secret to Sales Success'.

To me, the 7 ways suggested by the author can certainly help you in positioning yourself, which I have talked about in an earlier post.

Here's the link to the article.


The recent cave-in, which created a 7 m by 8 m x 3 m deep hole, at Cornwall Gardens, in the Holland Road area, has brought up an interesting aspect about the tricky business of tunnelling.

The Sunday Times of June 2nd 2008 has carried a very useful graphic illustration of the tunnelling business which goes on 30 m below the ground as part of the Circle Line MRT.

According to the news report, tunnelling is done using tunnel boring machines. The front of the machine drills through with the aid of a rotating wheel which has steel cutters on it.

Hardy ring-like structures are then fixed around the tunnel to secure the ground. These rings form the underground tunnels that MRT trains now pass through.

As an engineer by training, I am naturally fascinated by tunnelling.

I understand the current concept of tunnelling, using tunnel boring machines, has its origins from the pioneering achievement of Sir Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849).

He was a French-born engineer who settled in the United Kingdom.

A prolific inventor, he also invented machines for sawing timber; for knitting stockings; and for printing.

In 1818, he designed & patented the first tunnel boring machine, which he used to build the Thames Tunnel.

In essence, it was a cylinder pushed ahead of the tunnelling equipment, to provide advance support for the tunnel roof. Something like this was needed when tunnelling in soft or unstable ground.

The shield was pushed forward by hydraulic jacks, about 10 cm at a time. While the iron shield held up the wet sandy muck, workers lined the tunnel walls with brick.

Do you know where he got the idea?

Mother Nature.

Brunel found the inspiration for his tunnelling shield from observing the tunnelling habits of the ship worm, Teredo navalis, a pest that ate the wooden hulls of ships.

He noticed the tough shell on the end of the worm, which it used to cut through wood.

And he also noted that the rest of the worm was a long tube used to dispose of the wood shavings.

Brunel’s invention provided the basis for subsequent tunnelling shields used to build the London Underground system & many other tunnels.

It is true that Mother Nature has always been modern technology's first teacher. This is just one good but small lesson from what is known as biomimicry. Please read my earlier post on biomimicry.

[For more information & pictures of tunnel boring machines, please visit this link.]



1. You do some stuff.
2. Some works.
3. You do more of the stuff that works.
4. What works is copied by

5. Go to step 1.

~ Authur Unknown


If you had three days to see, what would you choose to see in those days?

Your answer to this question will teach you about what you truly love in your life.

~ Helen Keller

Monday, June 2, 2008


I am not a beer drinker, but I do know Singaporeans take beer very seriously.

In Singapore, for instance, diners would never think of taking chilly crabs or fish head curry without taking beer, & chances are the beer they do take is always Tiger.

My buddies in the Wednesday Club are great lovers of Tiger Beer. Even my gym buddy, not really a beer lover, but will never refuse one, when the opportunity presents it.

As a Singaporean, I know Tiger Beer is a world-class, award-winning quality beer, which is also enjoyed in more than 60 countries across the globe.

Incidentally, Singaporeans consume about 28 litres of beer per capita per year, as compared to the American figure of nearly 114 litres.

So, I just can't help paying attention to the latest TV commercial from Tiger Beer, while watching the pilot episode of 'Early Edition', a new sci-fi fantasy series, on AXN Channel.

Normally, during commercial breaks, I often walk off to answer nature's call or to have a glass of water at the kitchen. Sometimes, I even run to my desktop to surf the net.

There are two Caucasian guys sitting on the beach. One guy suddenly goes into a focus mode, with both his hands on either side of his forehead. A bottle of Tiger Beer abruptly appears from thin air in front of him, & he stretches his right hand to grab it.

The next guy follows likewise, & a whole carton of Tiger Beer comes up from beneath the sand like a geyser.

Seeing what has happened, the first guy repeats his antic. A falling object from the sky slowly morphs into a truck load of Tiger Beer on the beach.

The second guy immediately goes into the focus mode, & a mammoth object which looks like a Tiger Beer plant whizzes down from the sky.

Seemingly flabbergusted, the first guy repeats his antic one more time, & the second guy suddenly vanishes into thin air.

As he is about to walk off with the first bottle of Tiger Beer in his left hand, & the other hand on the side of his forehead, the second guy conveniently reappears.

The message just before the ad dissipates: Enjoy Winning!

Wow! Tiger Beer & The Power of Imagination. What a potent combination!


Engineering seems to be hot news during recent months, judging from what I have been reading in the Straits Times.

May 22nd:

Headline read: "His worry: Is Singapore becoming high cost, low tech?"

In it, Mr Ngiam Tong Dow, a former top civil servant, highlighted the importance of Singapore ensuring that the best and brightest students become engineers. He was quoted as saying: 'How do you become a knowledge-based economy except through science & technology? As a result, if the cream of the education goes to Shenton Way, instead of technology & industrial parks, I think we are done for.'

May 26th:

Headline read: "Engineers have 'role in community building"

The new president of the Institution of Engineers (IES) Lee Bee Wah, said she is determined to elevate the image of the engineering profession.

According to her, out of the top 50 chief executives in Singapore, a third of them were engineers by training. She estimates thatthere are more than 50,000 practising engineers in Singapore, 50% of whom are women.

'Many of us are being headhunted to banks and multinational corporations. Engineers look at every problem as a challenge, and we know how to dissect each one and come up with a solution,' she said.

'I feel that for Singapore to take the next leap, we need to have a core group of very good engineers, because technology will play a very important part in the next phase of our development,' she added.

May 31st:

Headline read: "Yale, Harvard 'engineering' a revolution"

Over the past year, Yale & Harvard have started following the lead of fellow Ivy League universities Princeton & Columbia by producing more engineers.

Incidentally, China is producing 575,000 engineering graduates a year. USA produced 81,610 in 2006.

In Singapore, there has also anecdotal evidence of a shortage of engineers. But Trade & Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said last year that local educational institutions are producing "a steady pipeline of 30,000 engineering & technical manpower each year", sufficient to meet domestic demand,

June 2nd:

Headline in the Forum read: "Engineers' body will work to draw top brains into industry"

Chong Kee Sen, Honarary Secretary of the Institution of Engineers (IES) shared Mr Ngiam's view, while expressing her hope that top students would make engineering their top choice a university.

The future certainly looks bright & rosy for engineers.

Food for your thoughts, especially if you are planning a university pursuit &/or making a career choice.

Well, my gym buddy, an electrical engineer by training, has been smiling ear to ear ever since he has managed to convince his youngest son in taking up an electrical & electronic engineering course at NTU, which has commenced in early April.


"But all art is sensual & poetry particularly so. It is directly, that is, of the senses, & since the senses do not exist without an object for their employment all art is
necessarily objective. It doesn't declaim or explain, it
(William Carlos Williams, 1883– 1963, an American poet; was also a pediatrician & general practitioner of medicine; during his long lifetime, he excelled both as a poet & a physician;)


This is a pocket-sized book, with just 150 pages of real-life stories, all designed to inspire & motivate student readers to excel.

A small part of the life stories comes from the author, a Singaporean HRD professional, about how he overcame poverty, parental abuse & other hardships, & who later succeeded in topping the class in postgraduate studies.

Interestingly, he has incorporated some Asian models to illustrate the success stories, including Li Ka Shing, Jimmy Lai (Giordano), Dhirubhai Ambani (Reliance Group, India) & Michelle Yeoh, the famed Malaysian actress who starred opposite the character of James Bond 007 in 'Tomorrow Never Dies'.

From the intellectual standpoint, there isn't anything ground-breaking or novel in the book, except that the author has offered an interesting life skills model, drawn from his own personal journey & challenging exploits, from human resource appointments to entrepreneurship & self-publishing, to share with readers.

At first glance, the model seems relatively complicated, but it does make sense after going through it, as its constituents eventually form a solid framework to consolidate the 6 success formulas from the author.

- lifetime learning;
- lifetime excellence;
- lifetime change;
- lifetime creativity;
- lifetime passion;
- lifetime fulfilment;

Using the Self as the premise, the model starts with first, understanding the negative influences, which the author calls the SADDLE frame of mind:

- self pity;
- arrogance;
- daydreams;
- distractions;
- laziness;
- exaggerated fear;

then, you are ready to adopt or embrace the 6 key concepts for your success, which the author proudly calls the Praise model:

- Use the Internal RULES;
- Conduct ANALYSIS;
- Execute the STRATEGY;

(Note the collective prefix which spells SUCCESS!)

Interestingly, as I understand from the book, while the 'Self', influenced by the 'SADDLE' frame of mind, adopts the 'PRAISE' model, & acquires the 6 success formulas (change,creativity, passion, fulfilment, learning, excellence), ultimate SUCCESS shall be yours for a lifetime, without any limit.

To counter the negative influences, the author offers five familiar positive mindsets:

- be different;
- be decisive;
- take control;
- never give up;
- take ownership;

Intertwined into the intellectual contents are some goodies by way of wise quotations from Benjamin Franklin, Sun Tze & a host of other inspirational thought leaders you would often find in most other motivational books.

In this light, the book is thus, one-third personal life story, one-third life skills model, & one-third anecdotes from elsewhere.

The following paragraph, extracted from the book, more or less sums up the author's parting shot:

"I do not believe in making false promises & telling you that just because you have read this book, you can, overnight, become an extraordinary success. Perhaps some of you can. But for most of us, it is going to take some time.

But you can make a start - by aiming for small successes . . .

My wish is to inspire you to draw out the PRAISE champion that dwells inside you . . ."

On the whole, at least for me, the book has been very light & interesting reading.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


"Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, & we must learn that the setbacks & grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward."

(Henry Ford, 1863-1947, American industrialist, best known for his pioneering achievements in the automobile industry; founder of the Ford Motor Co., & inventor of the modern assembly lines used in mass production;)


I believe 'positioning' is a marketing term that has its origins in the work of Al Ries & Jack Trout during the early eighties when they wrote the magnum opus, 'Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind'.

According to the two authors, the basic approach of 'positioning' is not to create something new & different, but to manipulate what's already up there in the mind of the customer. To retie the connections that already exist, so to speak.

On the other hand, I reckon some credit should also be given to Michael Porter, who also wrote the seminal work, 'Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analysing Industries & Competitors' during the early eighties, even though his marketing term of 'strategic positioning' is framed within the capabilities of providing the best defence against the existing array of competitive forces in the marketplace.

In both cases, at least to me, the crux in 'positioning yourself' is building capabilities to create & sustain superior business performance.

So, in the personal context, 'positioning yourself' is also building capabilities to create & sustain superior personal as well as professional performance.

To some extent, you probably can call it 'personal branding'. In other words, creating visibility for yourself.

Ultimately, 'positioning yourself' puts yourself in a position of strength or power to negotiate what you want & to be able explore all the options available to you.

It applies to planning your own career success as well as your entrepreneurial success, if any.

I often like to use this simple analogy during my workshops:

China produces more than a million university graduates a year. Many of them end up in UK or USA for their second or third degrees. Singapore produces slightly more than 10,000 a year.

The question is this: how do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

The answer: 'Positioning Yourself'!

What are the basic steps to 'positioning yourself'?

Knowing yourself should definitely be the first step:

- knowing who you are;
- knowing what you do well;
- knowing what you like to do;
- knowing what you don't like to do;
- understanding where you want to go;
- understanding where you don't want to go;
- figuring out how to get where you want to go;
- figuring how to avoid going where you don't want to go;
- figuring how to change course when you're on the wrong track;

Maybe, writing a positioning statement is a great way to get started.

I reckon this positioning statement applies not only to running your own business, but also if you are just an employee working for a company.

1) Who am I?

2) What business am I in?

3) What is unique about me:

- my company;
- my product/service/program;
- my abilities, talents & skills;

4) With whom do I do business?

5) What specific results do I deliver?

6) How do I work?

7) What is my unique proposition to you (the customer), which my competition can't?

In a nutshell, whether you like it or not, 'positioning yourself' is essentially a perception game.

The way I see it, the ultimate strategic objective in 'positioning yourself' is to create an awesome impression so deep in the mind of your customer or client (or even your employer) that he only wants to do business with you (only wants to retain your talent, in the case of your employer), & not the competition.


I just saw this ad of a developmental program for general managers & above on the net, going for S$16,050 per head. It's scheduled from June 28th to July 4th at the SIM.

It's entitled 'The Job of the CEO'.

In a nut shell, here's the synopsis:

- CEO as motivator;

- CEO as sensor of market opportunities;

- CEO as creator of shareholder value;

- CEO as strategist & policy maker;

- CEO as agent of change;

- CEO as strategist for acquisitions;

- CEO as architect of organisational structures & systems;

- CEO as negotiator;

- CEO as visionary;

As I have always pointed out in my earlier posts, we are all CEOs of our own lives.

The functional responsibilities in the organisational setting as outlined in the synopsis are readily applicable to us in the personal setting.

All it takes is a little bit of ingenuity & imagination on our part.

For example, 'CEO as strategist for acquisitions'. In the organisational setting, acquisitions = companies & other big assets, but in the personal setting,

acquisitions = knowledge, experiences, skill sets, networks, & even nest eggs for our retirement.

In fact, to me, acquisitions can also include recreations, holidays & fun. We need that for our continual rejuvenation.

Think about it.